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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

New Partnership Makes College More Attainable For Graduates Of Seattle Public Schools

Dr. Dwane Chappelle, Director of DEEL

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan along with partners from education, philanthropy and STEM industries recently announced a new partnership with the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) to strengthen pathways to college and career advancement for Seattle Promise scholars pursuing jobs in the trades, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and health care. According to officials, Seattle is the first city in Washington State to become a municipal partner for this competitive scholarship, ensuring Seattle Promise scholars have access to continued financial aid and support as they successfully complete the Seattle Promise program and transition to furthering their education at another institution. 

WSOS was founded in 2011 through a partnership between the State of Washington, philanthropic donors, and leading STEM industry partners including Microsoft, Boeing, and the Rubens Family Foundation. In April 2019, the state legislature passed the Workforce Education Investment (HB 2158) which included a provision that allows for counties and municipalities to invest in the WSOS program and award scholarships to students residing in the municipality.

“This investment represents our City’s commitment to seeking innovative approaches that maximize regional resources to improve educational outcomes for Seattle BIPOC, first-generation, and students experiencing financial hardship,” said Dr. Dwane Chappelle, Director of DEEL. “We need more BIPOC students contributing their brilliance and talent to our local STEM and health care workforce. DEEL is proud to partner with WSOS and invest in career pathways for more Seattle students.” 

Seattle Promise is a college tuition and success program, launched by Seattle Colleges, Seattle Public Schools, and the City of Seattle, that provides free tuition at any of the Seattle Colleges: North Seattle College, Seattle Central College or South Seattle College for up to two years, 90 credits or a student’s first degree, whichever comes first.

The program offers student support and advising that begins in their junior year of high school and continues through the completion of a degree, certificate, credential or transfer to a four-year institution. All Seattle Public High School graduates are eligible for the Seattle Promise program regardless of grade point average (GPA), income, ability or country of birth.

Braxton Goss, a graduate of Chief Sealth in 2018 and a computer science and software engineering student at the University of Washington – Bothell campus, can attest to the support and help that this program provides as it has given him the opportunity to continue his education whereas without it his journey towards a degree may have been stifled.

“This program is really trying to reach out and help underprivileged, underrepresented students,” says Goss. “It has really helped me to attain the educational goals I have set for myself. The whole point of the scholarship is help those who may not have had the resources to go college, but the desire to go college and enable them to go to college.”

Braxton also participates in a WSOS peer-to-peer mentorship program that pairs more experienced Opportunity Scholars with a paid leadership position to help first and second-year Scholars with the transition to college. He credited scholarships like WSOS for giving him the time and opportunity to seek out leadership opportunities and experiences outside of class that have helped him hone the skills he needs to compete for internships and opportunities. Next summer, Braxton will be interning with Amazon in software development. 

According to Durkan, WSOS and the Seattle Promise Program has positioned themselves and committed to the idea that access to higher education should be afforded to all students, but in particular, students of color, indigenous and lower income students.

“Seattle Promise is transforming the lives of thousands of students. We’re proud to be the first city in Washington State to partner with WSOS because we are committed to ensuring each and every student in our city, especially our young Black, Indigenous, and people of color and lower income students have access to college,” said Durkan.

“Seattle Promise is building a better future for young people in our city by reducing the cost of college. Our partnership with WSOS will ensure students most impacted by the pandemic have continued support at the end of the program to ensure they complete their degrees and earn great jobs in critical industries right here in our City and State.” 

With two scholarship pathways, WSOS provides financial assistance, mentorship and support to prepare Washington students for careers in STEM and increase equitable access to advanced degrees: 

• The WSOS Baccalaureate Scholarship (BAS) will provide students pursuing bachelor’s degrees up to $22,500 in financial assistance to continue their third year of college. Scholars could use the funding to pay tuition, fees, and additional student costs including housing, transportation, food and other expenses.  

• The WSOS Career and Technical Scholarship (CTS) will provide scholars pursuing associate degrees, certificate or apprenticeship programs up to $1,500 per quarter. Similarly, to the BAS pathway, CTS funds are flexible and can be used to cover costs beyond tuition.  

WSOS is a competitive scholarship program, selecting only 29 percent of eligible applicants for the BAS scholarship and 38 percent for the CTS scholarship, statewide in 2021. Just 10 percent or 400 of the 3,800 BAS and CTS recipients currently receiving WSOS support across the state are graduates of Seattle public high schools. Seattle’s new partnership guarantees scholarships for 60 Promise students over the next two years. Both scholarship pathways extend access to valuable career mentorship to support Seattle Promise students as they continue their studies, thrive in their college classes, and successfully transition to STEM careers. 

“Combining Seattle Promise and WSOS will ensure Seattle students have the support they need to pursue the high-demand jobs in our region,” said Kimber Connors, WSOS Executive Director. “We know from experience that completing your degree and launching a career takes more than just money. We are thrilled to bring additional financial aid dollars, but also mentorship and support services, that will prove vital for degree completion and career launch for the students who benefit from this new partnership.” 

“A big reason I can afford college is because of WSOS,” says Goss. “My parents don’t make a lot of money. WSOS made it possible for me not to worry about where money for my rent and living expenses would come from. Having access to scholarship dollars like [WSOS] made it possible for me to use my time to gain the leadership skills I needed to compete for the internship I landed for next summer. Being involved in something like this makes your college experience more fulfilling.” Applications for Seattle Promise are open now for current Seattle Public Schools seniors who will be graduating in 2022. 

Applications for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship will open January 5, 2022. All students who live in Washington are eligible to apply, but only Seattle Promise scholars and high school seniors will be eligible for funding generated by the City of Seattle’s municipal match partnership. 

This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Seattle Medium through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.

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